Sunday, October 21, 2007

Favorites Return & Others

Fall is still in the offing since I still don't have the Dark-eyed Juncoes and White-throated Sparrows as regular visitors. A single male DEJU passed through briefly yesterday afternoon. He landed on the deck rail just a few feet away from me and then hit the road again. I haven't seen the WTSP's since last weekend.

I was happy to see some of the missing "usual suspects" show up this weekend. The Mockingbird (pictured first below) came in for a drink of water from the bird bath this morning. Yesterday, a male Red-bellied Woodpecker hung around for a while and finally left after finding a morsel of something from one of the trees. He had a nut, berry, or whatever in his beak when he finally flew off for the day. Also seen were the long absent Downy Woodpecker and Song Sparrow.

Another interesting visitor both yesterday and today was this female? juvenile? Northern Parula. This warbler breeds in Missouri and then heads south to Mexico and Honduras for the winter. They are usually out of here by the end of September, maybe early October, but this one has found my yard and enjoyed a sip of water and refreshing bath. I first saw the Northern Parula for the first time during the Spring migration. Hopefully this one will hit the road soon and remember my yard on the return trip.

I know I have complained to the point of exhaustion about the squirrels. But I had to laugh as this little fellow showed off his acrobatic abilities on the shepherd's hook and feeders. This is one determined squirrel.

And how he was able to cling on to the "Cling-A-Wing" feeder, I'll never know. The feeder will probably be destroyed in due time. Squirrel-proof feeder? I don't think it exists no matter how hard Duncraft pushes them. These are clever little devils that will figure out any challenge put in front of them!

Til the next time, hang in there!

ID HELP! Probably Impossible

I was going through all the bird pictures I've taken the last couple of months and ran across these that were taken in late August. Yikes, why did I ever let these go so long! Other than the date, I know very little about what was going on when I took them. In fact, the pictures were of such poor quality, I had to undertake a major photoshopping to pull out a recognizable image of a bird.

At first I thought Kinglet, but nope, that's not it. Eastern Phoebe came up as a possible suspect, but I also ran across the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Don't mind the colors in the pictures below because they probably are not true after all the manipulation. When I say the BGGN, I'm looking at the eye ring, length of the wings, and, most importantly, the tail feathers. The BGGN has a black tail, but from the underside a distinguishing characteristic is the white outer tail feathers that give the "underside of the tail a mostly white appearance when the tail is closed."

If you have any ideas, let me know!

Cornell's "All About Birds" has suggestions for similar species:

Similar Species

Cerulean Warbler with streaking on chest and sides, two wingbars, and shorter tail, lacks eyering and white outer tail feathers. NO STREAKING on my bird.

Kinglets with greenish, with wingbars and shorter tails. STOCKIER, MORE YELLOW (can't tell on my pictures, but seems to be more whitish on the belly & sides) & MORE PROMINENT EYE RING? compared to my bird.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher with mostly black undersides to tail feathers, duller overall. Breeding male with black cap. TAIL IS MOSTLY BLACK. DIFFERENT RANGE. compared to my bird.

California Gnatcatcher with darker underside and nearly all black tail. Breeding male with black cap. TAIL IS MOSTLY BLACK. DIFFERENT RANGE. compared to my bird.

Rare Black-capped Gnatcatcher female very similar, with longer bill and more tapered tail. Breeding male with extensive black cap. UNLIKELY - SW US. vs. Missouri.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hawks are Difficult!

Cooper's Hawk? Sharp-shinned Hawk? All the field guides say that these are pretty much identical except for two things: Size & Tail.

The Sharp-shinned is 10 to 14" in length with a squared-off tail. They eat birds and small mammals.

The Cooper's is 14 to 20" in length with a rounded tail. They eat birds and mammals. (No distinction as to what size mammal they chow down on, so maybe a squirrel is a possibility?)

I swore last Saturday that I was seeing a Cooper's Hawk because of its size and the fact that it seemed to be going after a squirrel. Then I saw it again on Sunday and took pictures. The tail made me think it was a Sharpy. Plus it paid no attention to the squirrels and the squirrels paid not an iota of attention to it. Maybe I had one one day and the other the next?

Anyway, pictures posted below of the one I saw Sunday. What I do know for sure is that the birds are pretty much spooked by the Hawk, whichever it may be. The seed bill will definitely be down this month. The last two days I've seen a couple of brave Cardinals and the perky little Chickadees that seem to have no fear whatsoever. And of course the Moron Doves that generally seem to be the food of choice for the hawks.

I really would like to have your vote: Sharp-shinned or Coopers, before I submit my observations to eBird.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Changing of the Guard

All across the country bird watchers are reporting the arrival of the winter birds while the summer breeding birds are making their way further south. In just the past two days Dark-eyed Juncos are being reported in Cashton, WI, Connellsville, PA, Medford, OR, Canton, NY, Hanover, MA, and here in St. Louis, MO.

Other returnees joining the year-round birds of St. Louis include the White-throated Sparrows, Brown Creeper, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I am not looking forward to the dark days of winter, but at least the birds will be around to brighten them.

Late this morning a Cooper's Hawk flew in and landed on the open umbrella on my deck to survey the yard. The birds had wisely flown off, but he had his eye on the beastly squirrel sitting on the fence. He swooped down at him, but unfortunately left without lunch in his talons. Better luck next time. I'm pulling for you Coop!

These are pitiful pictures of the White-throated and Yellow-bellied. Poor lighting, but here they are just the same.